Eco-friendly and thoughtful! Japanese oshibori (hand towel) culture

Chain of happiness project

Hi it’s Ayumi!

I think many of you have been served a hand towel at Japanese restaurant. How did you feel!?

“A little special?”, “Oh I feel refreshed!!” or “Well, I don’t need it…”.

Today, I would like to talk about this unique Japanese hand towel culture in the world! If you take it at home, it’s actually very eco-friendly. Let’s check the recommended tools, too!

What is oshibori

We call it “oshibori/おしぼり” for hot towels. When you eat at restaurant, you may hear the Japanese customer asking like “Oshibori kudasa~i!!”. The etymology is “squeeze = Shiboru”.

So when did Japanese start using oshibori?


Oshibori originally started in Heian period (around 800 AD) among high rank people. When they invited guests to the house, they offer wet clothes to clean hands and feet for refresh. Hosts wanted guests to relax and feel like their home by offering oshibori.

After the war, the business of “preparing oshibori” was born, instead of preparing hand towels on their own, and vendors began to provide them to restaurants in the form of hand towels. A hand towel heater was also developed, and various types of hand towels such as warm hand towels, cold hand towels, and non-woven hand towels were developed.


So how is it right to give oshibori to a guest? In Japanese culture, there are correct ways to fold and place oshibori.

How to fold

Wet a square towel and squeeze it tightly. Place it in the direction of the diamond. Make a triangle by shifting it a little as shown in the picture. Stack the right and left in order, and roll it around at the end.

Manners for oshibori

Choose a hand towel that is clean and comfortable to the touch. It gets dirty, so wash it each time.

Also, use a tray so that you can put it out in a clean condition. At that time, place the oshibori that the end of the roll is on the bottom.

The correct position to place the oshibori is on the far right. This is because many people are right handed, and it is easy to wipe their hands. If you know in advance that the guest is left-handed, put it on the left. If possible, put it on a tray with other plates and meals.

Oshibori in oversea

Oshibori is a Japanese culture, but now there are also oshibori services overseas.

Japan Airlines sparked the hand towel boom. Even now, the very first service that an airplane takes off is to distribute hot towels with aroma to all passengers. Refresh yourself with a hand towel and wait for the next in-flight service and drinks.

This service has been well received and widespread to all over the world, at such as airlines, long-distance buses and at high-end restaurants.

What is good point with oshibori


It has been about half year since I took in oshibori at home. Why did I start oshibori at home? It was because I wanted to reduce the amount of tissue used.

My 4-year-old son often gets his hands and mouth dirty while eating and wipes them with tissue. He always uses a lot of tissue in one meal.

Paper resources are limited and we have to save it. When I was wondering if there was any good way, I remembered the oshibori that were always served at the restaurant.

Since its introduction, the chances of using tissue during meals have been reduced to almost zero, and garbage has been greatly reduced! Oshibori can replace tissue and paper napkins. I should have used it earlier!

You can show your caring/gratitude

At dinner time. The family who worked and studied hard all day at office or school finally take a rest with peace of mind. When they see clean well-prepared oshibori and wipe their hands before the meal, they can refresh themselves and enjoy their meal comfortably.

You can add a word in your heart, “Thank you for your hard work, thank you for your day today.” with oshibori. In Japanse, we say “Otsukare sama”.

Where you can buy oshibori trays?

So I recommend to introduce oshibori at home and where can we get oshibori trays? I personally purchased at Nitori, Japanese home improvement store. The natural wood material gives us the calm mood and it matches to any plates and bowls. It’s available at their online shopping.

ニトリネット【公式】 家具・インテリア通販

Also, I found similar items at Amazon. Please take a look and find your favorite one!

Oshibori, a Japanese culture. You can reduce the amount of tissue used, which is very eco-friendly, and you can convey your feelings of hard work to your family. Let’s start it!

What is “Chain of happiness project” by JPsalon? Please refer this page! Thanks.


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